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Finding Italian pleasures at Toronto's Archeo

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The quieter half of Toronto’s very popular El Catrin Destilleria, Archeo (a diminutive of “archeology”) is named for its location within The Distillery Historic District, a neighborhood with a rich and multi-layered history.

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A National Historic site, the Distillery District contains some of the best examples of Victorian Industrial architecture on the continent – now converted into a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood not unlike SoHo or the Meatpacking District in New York. Throughout the district, the neighborhood’s provenance is evidenced in stone and brick buildings, repurposed timber and planks, all utilized in a creative fusion of 21st-century design with 19th-century materials.

The Distillery District opened in 2003 and has subsequently become an anchor of Toronto’s booming art scene, with a plethora of galleries, shops, studios, and boutiques.

Archeo is located in a splendid example of Victorian architecture, complete with high yellow pine ceilings, exposed brick walls, concrete floors, and a reclaimed timber bar – resulting in a dazzling marriage of industrialism and contemporary style.

Artist Steven Evans’s splendid wall-sized photographs of the building serve as movable room dividers – and a reminder of what the rooms were like when used by Victorian carpenters and plumbers.

At lunch, the room is an oasis of hushed voices and agreeable servers with a menu emphasizing seasonal cuisine and comfort food. Panzanella is a toothy mélange of stewed cherry tomatoes and crusty bread, while the pizzas are as crispy as those in Napoli. A cookie plate for dessert includes mocha meringues, almond biscotti, and oatmeal raisin and proves a perfect complement to the delicious espresso.

Serene and stylish, Archeo is an Italian sanctuary amidst the hubbub of The Distillery District.

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